It was a lovely summer's evening. The low sun shone brightly over these wonderful stones. All was quiet except for birdsong and the occasional passing car in the distance. The stones had a decent covering of 'hairy lichen' and the angle of light showed the cup marks in all their glory. It is easy to take rock art for granted in Kilmartin Glen. Something we should never do of course. I hope the stones, their cup marks and secrets are with us for another couple of thousand years. I hope this glen is as beautiful then as it is now. If you have never been, make sure you visit this special place and allow as much time as possible to try to take it all in. Evening and morning visits are best as the place can get busy when the afternoon coaches arrive. Still, this place is big enough to accommodate us all - you can always find a quiet spot amongst these large and mysterious stones.
Went and had a look a few times this year, over the space of a week, but can't convince myself about the second ring I thought I'd seen previously, despite a number of different lighting conditions, both natural and artificial.
Wheelchair/buggy access here is very good (as it is at most of the main Kilmartin sites). The dedicated parking space is only a few hundred metres away, the ground is fairly flat, with no big bumps, gates are sensible, and there is a nice even bridge over the stream.
It seems to get a bit busy though, even on weekdays, we hung about for an hour or so, and spotted at least 7 groups of other visitors, most of whom were in a bit of a hurry. It's quite fun to watch folk doing the circuit from here to Nether Largie south, via Temlpewood, it looked like quite a nice little walk. So we eventually got up and did the same.
It's a nice way to see these 3 sites, as it gives you the chance to see the X from a number of perspectives, but isn't strenuous in the least.
I got the idea into my head that there are two rings around one of the cups, but it could just be a trick of the light. There are't any double rings on any of the diagrams I've seen.
New paths and fences have been put around this area this year. One result of which is that the outlying stone (between the X and Temple Wood and the Nether Largie South cairn) is in the same field as the main stone setting and so is more readily accessible than in the past.
We went out on a walk with a local countryside ranger last week and he told us of an American woman who had asked to visit the 5 smaller stones in the field alone with him. When they got there she said that this site should never be excavated but she wouldn't tell him why. She was absolutely adamant about his and he said he sensed a fear in her - he was sure that whatever reasons she had for such a request where absloutely valid to her mind.
The sense was that the stones had been placed there to "contain" something - whether real or otherwordly, I really don't know but I had never really thought of this before. I can't remember whether this was explicit in what she said, or just suggested but it did make us stop and think - and come up with even more "what if"s and "why"s
(It certainly made for an interesting debate around a couple of bottles of wine later that evening....)
So, we sat there and wondered at what lies beneath and started to feel a sense of trepidation! The mind can play tricks on you in such a place.....in the end we decided to sit within the "circle", our backs to the 2 larger stones and felt a sort of calm fall over us.
Still would like to know what had spooked her so much, though!
I hadn't planned a return visit to this site. I had simply stopped in the car park to phone home and have a bite to eat before the two hour drive back.
Then I noticed that there was no one at the site (perhaps not unusual at 8.30pm out of season) and, more importantly, the sun was probably in a good position to show up the carvings on the centre stone.
So in I went delaying my departure by about half an hour while I wandered about taking pictures in these near-perfect conditions.
The Nether Largie stones (the Great X etc.) seem to be lined up with features of the landscape.
Looking down the line of the 'X' (its a very narrow X, more like a straight line with an 'entrance' at each end - see http://www.kilmartin.org/kilmartin/sites/ss9.html
for a good view of it) from its southwestish end, it points at the small wood to the northeastish;
The big central stone of the X lies on a straight line between Templewood and another small wood on the opposite side. It is a thin, flat sided stone and the plane of it is on this line. (Where these woods there when the stone were erected?);
Also when you line this central stone up with the smaller stone that is standing on its own in what is now the next field to the northish it points at the highest visible hilltop peak.
The www.kilmartin.org site reckons it may have been used to track the sun and moon. Doesn't say how - but if so looks likes its relating them to local landscape. (Also/or related to geomancy?)
The landscape of the whole glen is really unusual. You particularly notice this if you go towards the sea. The glen is not only mostly very flat, its also mostly right at sea level. It looks and feels like its just been submerged and could be again at any moment. The glens stones etc. are all basically round the edge of a giant peat bog which according to my sources (a tourist brochure) would have been a bit bigger and maybe still partly submerged when the stones were erected. Go down towards the sea, especially in the late afternoon/evening and its a really eerie, quiet and strange landscape, which is maybe why the glen has so many ritual sites.
On the way up to Kilmartin I vowed not to get distracted and stop off, just get to the B&B and wait till Sunday to explore the sites... this place stopped me in my tracks! It still had me spellbound the next day - the central stone's carvings in clear definition. I sat waiting for the sun to move and bring new detail to the stone, a totally captivating experience.